Born in June 11th 1880, Rankin is in history as the first woman to clinch the congressional seat in America. Rankin, even though later joined politics was a graduate from Missoula State University where she graduated in 1902 with Bachelor of Science in Biology (Amer, 2008).
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When in Harvard for a visit, Rankin got touched with plights of the slum dwellers and decided to become a social worker, a task she engaged in for a period of four months. (Amer, 2008) After the completion of these, Rankin joined philanthropic school in New York after which she again worked as a social worker in children’s home in Washington Rankin also was in the forefront in agitating for the rights of women in America, one of the rights she fought for was the discrimination of women during voting (Schultz & Assendelft, 1999).
Women were not allowed to exercise their voting rights and this is what Rankin wanted to be reversed such that elections were to be based on universal suffrage. (Schultz & Assendelft, 1999)In New York, Rankin teamed up with other fellows like Katherine Anthony infighting for the women rights.
In 1912, she was elected the secretary of the National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA) a body that spearheaded the 1913 suffrage march during the official inauguration of Woodrow Wilson in Washington, D.C. In 1914, she relinquished her position as the secretary of the NAWSA so as to enable her stage a similar protest in her home town in Montana (Smith, 2002).
In 1916, there were every indications that the war in the west was in the offing, Rankin then embarked on a peace building initiative. The looming war necessitated her quest for the congressional seat of Montana (Smith, 2002). She vied for the position on a republican ticket and won the elections becoming the first ever congress woman to be elected on a universal suffrage.
No form of western democracy had culminated into a woman winning a congressional position (Amer, 2008). Rankin used her position to champion for the women‘s rights and labor abuses especially in children, she was also a columnist in one of the news papers were she articulated the grievances of the society (Schultz & Assendelft, 1999).
Rankin being a believer of non violent ways of going about issues, voted against the motion supporting American entry into the First World War, she vehemently opposed the move and even went against the law by giving a speech as to why she would not support her country entry into the war (Smith, 2002).
Following her comments were sharp criticisms from other legislatures who attributed the occurrences to be the results of universal suffrage, during her tenure as the congress, she proposed several bills that mainly targeted children’s welfare, wage increment, civil liberties and suffrage bills (Smith, 2002).
Despite the enormous tasks the congress endeavored to deliver, her first impression to the people of not supporting a decision by the legislature that America should join the First World War ruined her political career. When she later ran for senator, she was trounced in the primaries and chose a third party in which she further lost overwhelmingly (Schultz & Assendelft, 1999).
After failing to recapture her seat, Rankin had a fallback option; she joined the pacifists group and continued spreading the massages about peace. Her peace loving saw her travel in several occasions to India where she went to meet an Indian spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi who was also a proponent of non violence approach to issues.
Rankin got completely disillusioned came 1941 when the world was faced with another crisis, World War II (Smith, 2002). The US president at this time was Franklin D. Roosevelt; Roosevelt mobilized the legislatures to pass a law enabling America yet again to join into the war.
This was following Japanese act that was interpreted as an act of aggression, they attacked American merchant ship at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This prompted America to join the war against Rankin’s wish (Schultz & Assendelft, 1999). Rankin in 1950 also organized a series of public lectures and interviews regarding disarmaments, women’s rights and militarism.
She also castigated the Korean and Vietnam wars arguing that they were not justified (Amer, 2008). In response to these, she organized many antiwar protests in Washington, South Carolina and in Georgia in hope that it would deter despot leaders in furthering war and causing havoc in the world. She also considered contesting senate for the second time unfortunately she fell ill and forfeited the need (Smith, 2002).
Rankin during her tenure as a congress person made in law a number of changes, the universal suffrage voting that allowed even women to take part in the voting exercise was initiative, for the first time American women were given the rights to vote. This was a milestone for the entire women in America in the political domain (Smith, 2002). Rankin also made several concessions regarding peace, wage increase, labor laws and disarmament laws to restore peace in the world (Smith, 2002).
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Rankin died at the age of 92 following old age in 1973, she left behind a kitty that was to help unemployed women go to school through scholarships, a kitty that exists to date and has helped a number of women to study (Schultz & Assendelft, 1999). Rankin is fondly remembered as the first woman to be elected democratically in the congress.
Amer, M. L. (2008). Women in Congress, 1917-2007 With Biographies. Nova Publishers. Print.
Schultz, J. D., & Assendelft, L. A. (1999). Encyclopedia of Women in American Politics. Greenwood Publishing Group. Print.
Smith, N. (2002). Jeannette Rankin, America’s Conscience. Montana: Montana Historical Society. Print.